MSPs to look into special schools’ use of restraint

Beth Morrison's son Calum sustained bruising after being restrained by a teacher in 2010. Picture: Contributed
Beth Morrison's son Calum sustained bruising after being restrained by a teacher in 2010. Picture: Contributed
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POLITICIANS have agreed to look at calls for national guidance on the use of restraint in special schools.

A petition with nearly 5,000 signatures was presented in the Scottish Parliament yesterday by Beth Morrison, who claims her son was injured after being held down by staff at Kingspark School in Dundee in 2010.

Police are carrying out an investigation into alleged abuse at the school, which parents said the authorities attempted to cover up.

Ms Morrison told MSPs on the committee that the use of restraint and exclusion in schools is a form of “child abuse”.

David Torrance, deputy convener of the public petitions committee, said: “Beth Morrison delivered a powerful and articulate presentation, and the committee was concerned to hear that many of Scotland’s most vulnerable children and their families may face a ‘postcode lottery’ when it comes to schools’ use of restraint and seclusion.

“The committee was surprised and concerned by Ms Morrison’s assertion that sometimes those expected to care for a disabled child can mistake pain or confusion for simple bad behaviour and opt to use seclusion and restraint as a form of punishment.”

He added: “A key question for the committee is: are national guidelines required to ensure that a consistently high standard of care is provided for Scotland’s disabled children? This is a question we will be putting to the Scottish Government, Care Inspectorate, EIS and a range of child support organisations.”

Ms Morrison said her son Calum, now 16, who has learning difficulties, returned from school with bruising to his arms and blood spots on his chest consistent with haemorrhaging caused by being restrained.

Police are looking into allegations dating from 2010 after the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner last year ruled that officers had failed to investigate properly when concerns were first raised.

Petitioners want the Scottish Government to ban the use of “cruel, humiliating and painful” restraint and want the practice to be used only as a “last resort”.

They also want training for staff on avoiding the use of restraint and for teachers and support workers to be made accountable by recording incidents which lead to a child being restrained.

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